An epic fail: £120m ‘Festival of Brexit’ flops

The festival, officially known as Unboxed, had hoped to attract 66 million visitors but has thus far managed to only attract 238,000 people.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

A government sponsored arts festival, which costs £120 million and was supposed to be a celebration of what post-Brexit Britain could look like, has been a flop, reaching a mere fraction of the total visitors it hoped to attract.

The festival, officially known as Unboxed, had hoped to attract 66 million visitors but has thus far managed to only attract 238,000 people.

The organisers have blamed the politicisation of the events as the reason behind the poor visitor numbers, with director Martin Green saying it had been “unfortunate” that the “Festival of Brexit” tag had stuck. It was none other than Jacob Rees-Mogg who had called for Brexit to be celebrated with a festival.

He said in 2018: “A Festival of Brexit would be excellent.

“There should be a huge celebration and in the spirit of friendship of our European neighbours, upon leaving we should drink lots of champagne to say that though we may be leaving the European Union, we don’t dislike Europe.”

The event itself had been pitched as a celebration of British creativity, wholly unconnected with Rees-Mogg.

However, the pro-Brexit MP’s comments and the event’s initial name ‘Festival UK* 2022 led to the two being associated with each other in people’s minds, with the name Festival of Brexit sticking.

A number of MPs had already voiced their concerns about the project being a waste of money.

Tory MP Julian Knight, chair of the committee, said on Thursday that ‘serious questions’ needed to be answered over the huge sums ‘squandered’ on the initiative.

“Despite reassurances from organisers that everything would be alright on the night, the scant interest shown by the public is a damning indictment of the festival from start to finish,” he said.

Martin Green, Unboxed’s chief creative officer, told House Magazine he was assured it would not be a “jingoistic jamboree” or a “festival of Brexit” when he took the job on.

Much like Brexit however, it has proved to be a costly endeavour with all sides left disappointed.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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